Barty, Osaka, Halep, and Keys vs. Stephens: All you need to know about the women’s draw

Ashleigh Barty vs. Naomi Osaka is a potential US Open final after Osaka landed on the opposite side of the draw from the world No 1 on Thursday. But there will be a whole lot of intrigue right from the start.

27 August 2021
Naomi Osaka, Ash Barty

The US Open draw has been made and although Serena Williams might not be in New York chasing Grand Slam title No 24, there is plenty of intrigue on hand.

Defending champion Naomi Osaka will be at Flushing Meadows looking to retain her crown, but she goes into the tournament in less-than-optimal form — and with continuing chatter about her feelings towards her media obligations. World No 1 Ashleigh Barty, on the other hand, has been stellar on the hard courts so far this year and begins her campaign at the US Open with the Cincinnati title as the latest success under her belt.

FIRST-ROUND MATCHES

• Simona Halep (12) v Camila Giorgi

Giorgi won the Montreal title two weeks ago, and she’ll need to take that champion mentality into her first-round clash with former world No 1 Halep. Although Halep is the favorite on paper, the Romanian has been struggling with physical problems for many months now and Giorgi is riding a wave of confidence. As the Italian showed in Canada, there is no one she can’t beat on any given day when her high-risk, high-reward game is working.

• Madison Keys v Sloane Stephens

Cast your mind back four years to an all-American US Open final. This year it’s a first-round encounter, as Keys and Stephens meet once more. It’s a terrible draw for the two good friends, but it’s nothing they aren’t used to. They have already faced each other twice in 2021 and both matches have come in either the first or second rounds. Stephens prevailed 6-4, 6-4 in Charleston before Keys got the job done 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 in Rome (each one on clay). The overall head-to-head series stands at 4-2 in favor of Stephens, but Keys has won two of the last three. The 2017 US Open final saw Stephens triumph 6-3, 6-0.

• Other matches

  • Ashleigh Barty (1) vs. Vera Zvonareva
  • Clara Burel vs. Clara Tauson
  • Anett Kontaveit (28) vs. Samantha Stosur
  • Johanna Konta vs. Kristina Mladenovic
  • Ons Jabeur (20) vs. Alize Cornet
  • Danielle Collins (26) vs. Carla Suarez Navarro

POTENTIAL FIRST WEEK HIGHLIGHTS

• Coco Gauff (21) vs. Madison Keys or Sloane Stephens – Second round

Just when you thought the draw couldn’t get any worse than it already is for Keys and Stephens in the first round, the winner will likely have to face Gauff in round two. Such is the strength of women’s tennis in the USA at the moment; there are a whole host of stars representing the host nation who are threats to make headlines in New York — both seeded and unseeded. Gauff, the teenage star who has already achieved plenty of Grand Slam success, has to get past a tough opponent in Magda Linette in the opening round.

• Victoria Azarenka (21) vs. Garbiñe Muguruza (9) – Third round

A showdown between former Grand Slam champions could come during the first week with Muguruza and Azarenka on a collision course for the last 32. Their rankings say that they aren’t at their peak level these days, but both women are in strong enough form heading into the fourth and final slam of 2021. There is no reason why each one can’t reach the third round, and it would likely be an incredible match if it does happen. The head-to-head series is tied up at 2-2; Muguruza and Azarenka have never squared off at a Grand Slam.

• Other matches

  • Jennifer Brady (13) vs. Karolina Muchova (22) – Third round
  • Belinda Bencic (11) vs. Jessica Pegula (23) – Third round
  • Iga Swiatek (7) vs. Belinda Bencic (11) – Fourth round
  • Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (14) vs. Paula Badosa (24) – Third round
  • Petra Kvitova (10) vs. Maria Sakkari (17) – Third round
  • Bianca Andreescu (6) vs. Petra Kvitova (10) – Fourth round
  • Elina Svitiolina (5) vs. Simona Halep (12) – Fourth round
  • Naomi Osaka (3) vs. Leylah Fernandez – Second round
  • Victoria Azarenka (18) vs. Garbine Muguruza (9) – Third round
  • Barbora Krejcikova (8) vs. Garbine Muguruza (9) or Victoria Azarenka (18) – Fourth round

PROJECTED QUARTER-FINALS

If all goes according to plan for the top eight seeds, the quarter-finals midway through the second week would look like this:

• Ashleigh Barty (1) vs. Iga Swiatek (7)
• Bianca Andreescu (6) vs. Karolina Pliskova (4)
• Naomi Osaka (3) vs. Elina Svitolina (8)
•Barbora Krejcikova (5) vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2)

Will any of these potential quarter-final matchups actually come to fruition? Maybe not. Swiatek has always been a force on clay, but her hard-court results leave a little bit to be desired. The 2020 French Open champion may have to get past Anett Kontaveit and either Jessica Pegula or gold medalist Belinda Bencic to reach the quarter-finals. That is no easy task. Elsewhere in the top half of the draw, Andreescu is looking extremely vulnerable. She just has not been able to stay healthy. The Canadian may have a tough opener on her hands against Viktorija Golubic, while Petra Kvitova and Maria Sakkari are in the same eighth of the bracket.

Osaka is in the same section as Gauff, Keys, and Stephens, so the No 3 seed’s path to the last eight is by no means easy. As for Svitolina, her third-round match could be against either Daria Kasatkina or silver medalist Marketa Vondrousova. Sabalenka vs. Krejcikova is the most likely projected quarter-final to happen given how well both women are playing right now. That being said, Azarenka and Muguruza cannot be discounter and neither can Elise Mertens, Ons Jabeur, or Danielle Collins.

BARTY’S ROUTE TO THE FINAL

Barty is chasing her first title in New York, and this is her route to the final based on seeding:

  • Round 1: Vera Zvonareva
  • Round 2: Clara Tauson
  • Round 3: Veronika Kudermetova (29)
  • Round 4: Jennifer Brady (13)
  • Quarter-finals: Iga Swiatek (7)
  • Semi-finals: Karolina Pliskova (4)
  • Final: Aryna Sabalenka (2)

OSAKA’S ROUTE TO THE FINAL

Osaka’s title defense could look like this:

  • Round 1: Marie Bouzkova
  • Round 2: Alycia Parks
  • Round 3: Yulia Putintseva (31)
  • Round 4: Angelique Kerber (16)
  • Quarter-finals: Elina Svitolina (5)
  • Semi-finals: Aryna Sabalenka (2)
  • Final: Ashleigh Barty (1)
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